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WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant found in South Africa

The World Health Organization is monitoring a new variant with numerous mutations to the spike protein, scheduling a special meeting Friday to discuss what it may mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.

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WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant found in South Africa
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The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO.

“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the organization’s social media channels.

The monitoring of the new variant comes as Covid cases surge around the world heading into the holiday season, with the WHO reporting hot spots in all regions and particularly in Europe.

South African scientists have detected more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body, South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said in a media briefing hosted by the South Africa Department of Health on Thursday.

The B.1.1.529 variant contains multiple mutations associated with increased antibody resistance, which may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, along with mutations that generally make it more contagious, according to slides he presented at the briefing.

Other mutations in the new variant haven’t been seen until now, so scientists don’t yet know whether they are significant or will change how the virus behaves, according to the presentation.

The variant has spread rapidly through the Gauteng province, which contains the country’s largest city of Johannesburg. 

“Especially when the spike happens in Gauteng, everybody travels in and out of Gauteng from all corners of South Africa. So it’s a given that in the next few days, the beginning of rising positivity rate and numbers is going to be happening. It’s a matter of days and weeks before we see that,” South Africa Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said during the briefing.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, Phaahla said. 

“Right now, researchers are getting together to understand where these mutations are in the spike protein and the furin cleavage site, and what that potentially may mean for our diagnostics or therapeutics and our vaccines,” Van Kerkhove said. She said there are fewer than 100 full genome sequences of the new mutation.

The virus evolution working group will decide if B.1.1.529 will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern, after which the WHO would assign the variant a Greek name, Van Kerkhove said.

“It’s really important that there are no knee-jerk responses here, especially with relation to South Africa,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said.

SOURCE: CNBC

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

Pakistan

NA, Senate sessions to be held today

Besides legislative business, both the Houses will take up matters pertaining to national and international importance. 

Published by Mehak Javed

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NA, Senate sessions to be held today

Islamabad: Sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly (NA) will separately be held at the Parliament House in Islamabad at 4 pm on Monday (January 17).

Besides legislative business, both the Houses will take up matters pertaining to national and international importance. 

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Pakistan

COVID-19: Pakistan logs 4,340 new infections, seven deaths 

Pakistan’s COVID positivity rate now stands at 8.71%.

Published by Mehak Javed

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COVID-19: Pakistan logs 4,340 new infections, seven deaths 

Islamabad: Pakistan has witnessed an enormous spike in its daily tally of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) after as many as 4,340 new infections were logged in the last 24 hours, according to morning update by ministry of health.

Pakistan’s COVID positivity rate now stands at 8.71%. While, the cumulative tally of the country has now climbed to 1,328,487. 

As the fifth wave of COVID-19 intensifies in Pakistan reported 4,027 new coronavirus infections, a new daily record, with authorities linking the spike with the Omicron variant of virus.  

According to the latest figures issued by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), 4,340 persons were tested positive while 7 died in the past 24 hours— taking Pakistan's COVID death toll to 29,019.   

As many as 1,263,791 patients have recovered from the disease. 

Punjab

The number of patients swelled to 453,392 in the province with 13,088 causalities.

Sindh

The number of infections has surged to 502,500 in the province, while the death toll has reached 7,694.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The confirmed cases have surged to 182,311 in the province with 5,958 casualties.

Balochistan

There are 33,705 confirmed cases while 367 patients have died from the infection so far.

AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan

There are 34,758 coronavirus cases in the AJK while the death toll has reached 749. On the other hand, there are 10,445 cases in GB with 187 coronavirus deaths.

Islamabad

There are 111,376 cases in the capital city while 969 people have lost their lives.  

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Pakistan

PM Imran Khan to launch Pakistan’s first-ever digital city in Haripur today

The project aims to serve as a state-of-the-art facility to enable collaborations and innovation among academia, research, industry and planners from within country and abroad

Published by Siddra Sumreen

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PM Imran Khan to launch Pakistan’s first-ever digital city in Haripur today

Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Haripur today (Monday) to perform the groundbreaking of Pakistan Digital City Special Technology Zone project, the country’s first such venture.

The prime minister will be accompanied by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, federal and provincial ministers.

The Pakistan Digital City project will be completed at a cost of Rs1.31 billion and scattered over 86 kanals of land.

Pakistan Digital City Haripur is a flagship project of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government being launched to provide all facilities to the IT industry in one place.

The project aims to serve as a state-of-the-art facility to enable collaborations and innovation amongst academia, research, industry and planners from within country and abroad.

It will benefit other allied industries like electronics, software houses, mobile phone industry, technology incubators, and computer industry in the province.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had inaugurated Lahore Technopolis, a special technology zone, to create jobs and boost Pakistan’s tech exports.

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